Job Seekers Feel More Threatened by Human Competition than Robots

Older, male workers are more confident that job prospects will improve under Trump administration

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer June 26, 2017
Job Seekers Feel More Threatened by Human Competition than Robots

Job seekers are more afraid of a new generation of workers competing for jobs than they are of losing those jobs to automation, according to a recent survey.

Recruiting software company Jobvite's 2017 Job Seeker Nation Study measured the attitudes of 2,287 U.S. workers—both employed and unemployed—about future career opportunities and the job search experience.

Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they felt at least slightly threatened by the emergence of Generation Z, with younger workers (18-22 years old) in particular more cautious of their generational peers. Only 15 percent of all respondents said they are concerned about their job being automated within five years; however, 30 percent of people in the tech industry said that they were concerned. Again, more younger workers (18-22 years old) are threatened by the prospect of automation than their older peers (21 percent versus 8 percent).

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Recruiting Internally and Externally]

"The economy is increasingly shifting toward skills-based work, which helps explain why the newest, and therefore most technically savvy, generation entering the workforce represents new competition for the better-paying jobs," said Matt Singer, vice president of marketing at Jobvite. "And with automation, while it's been on the radar for years, the survey showed that we're starting to see this fear decline. In 2016, 39 percent feared automation. Again, increasing demand for knowledge workers shifts the focus away from automation. Some tech-savvy jobs are starting to be automated, such as certain financial services and medical treatments. However, we have a long way to go before automation of knowledge work has a measurable impact."

The survey showed that workers in urban areas are more concerned their jobs will be automated in the next five years than those in rural areas (25 percent versus 14 percent). Unemployed job seekers were more fearful that automation would be a threat to them in the next five years, with 34 percent reporting concern, whereas 22 percent of employed people said the same. Unemployed job seekers also feel more threatened by Generation Z than employed workers (33 percent versus 22 percent).

Ten percent of respondents perceive immigrants as a threat to job opportunities, with higher levels of concern found among job seekers in the hospitality (20 percent), construction (27 percent) and mining (58 percent) sectors.

The Trump Effect?

Respondents were split over whether the election of President Donald Trump is better or worse for their job prospects, with 37 percent saying that prospects will be worse over the next four years due to the current presidential administration and 35 percent believing their prospects will be better.

Men were more confident than women about their job outlook under the Trump administration: 41 percent of males think job prospects will be better, while just 29 percent of females agree. More workers ages 55 and older (45 percent) also believe that job prospects will improve under Trump, compared with workers ages 18-22 (19 percent).

The study found that college graduates (42 percent) are more pessimistic about job prospects in the next four years than those without degrees (32 percent). But college grads are also more likely to have turned down a job offer than those without a degree (64 percent versus 54 percent).

"This really goes to show how divided the U.S. workforce is and where these different fault lines lie," Singer said. "In general, respondents surveyed were pretty even regarding job prospect pessimism and optimism over the next four years." 

Other key findings include:

  • 46 percent of job seekers say it's harder to find a job in 2017 than 2016, especially in mining (57 percent), real estate (30 percent) and construction (25 percent).
  • 64 percent are satisfied at work, but 81 percent are open to new job opportunities.
  • 42 percent job-hop every one to five years, compared to 34 percent who said the same last year. However, almost 70 percent of Baby Boomers stay at a job for more than 10 years compared to just 14 percent of Millennials.
  • Job seekers primarily leave their former positions for higher compensation (30 percent). Sixteen percent cited limited growth opportunities as their reason for leaving.
  • 48 percent would be willing to take at least a 10 percent pay cut to work at a job they're more interested in and passionate about.
  • 84 percent reported negotiating salaries for higher pay. Almost half (48 percent) received an initial salary offer on par with what they expected when they accepted their current or most recent job.
  • Half of respondents had at least one job interview in the past year, with no intention of leaving their current position. For younger workers (18-22 years old), pursuing one or two positions a year to gauge their options was even more common (59 percent).
  • 35 percent applied to their current or most recent position via referral. "Jobvite data show that referred applicants are five times more likely than average to be hired [compared with all applicants], and 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants from a job board," Singer said.
  • Facebook is the social network of choice for job seekers to research companies (25 percent), followed by LinkedIn (23 percent). Photo-sharing site Instagram was the top choice of those ages 18-29 (28 percent).
  • A disappointing salary offer was the top reason for turning down a job offer (42 percent), followed by a difficult commute (23 percent) and the company culture (13 percent).

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter.



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Are you a department of one?

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.